Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Listening to citizens, businesses, and the Member States' views on a Single Telecoms Market

Article
I have been reflecting on how we have been listening to citizens, businesses, and, of course, our Member States over the past year as we put together our package on the Single Telecoms Market.

This allows me to respond to Amelia Andersdotter's blog post on the Hunt for the Connected Continent, which I think takes too narrow a view of the interactions that have taken place around this package.

The Commission has received many substantive inputs over the years from established & alternative operators, from business & consumer organisations as well as users of telecoms services, national regulators and governments. While the Commission does not consult on a specific draft legislative text before submitting it for discussion with the co-legislators (Parliament and Council), we can only properly exercise our right of initiative in the light of all such inputs and evidence.

When the European Council of March 2013 requested the Commission to bring forward concrete measures to achieve a Single Market for ICT, we realised that this would require us to set about the task of gathering stakeholder input.

We therefore organised two public events to seek feedback on the proposals envisaged by the Commission. This complemented the preparatory work we had done on individual issues, and which had been the subject of consultation on an ongoing and continuous basis with all interested stakeholders.

The first event took place on 17th June 2013 in Brussels and was attended by more than 300 people. It featured contributions from telecom and consumer associations, including BEUC. In order to ensure a genuine and operational dialogue, we made available to the participants what we called a "non-paper” containing a broad problem analysis and possible ways to address the obstacles we had identified. A further event took place as part of the Annual Digital Agenda Assembly, on 19th June 2013 in Dublin, with more than 600 participants. The people attending these events came from all segments of the industry (telecom operators to investors, content providers, devices manufacturers, and other industries), but also from civil society and consumer organisations, national administrations, national regulatory authorities and other EU institutions. There was also active involvement of think tanks and the academic community.

Vice-President Kroes conducted a parallel process of dialogue with the committees of the European Parliament, responsible for industry (ITRE), internal market and consumer affairs (IMCO), at which the key elements of the proposal were presented and discussed (ITRE dialogue on 3 July 2013, IMCO dialogue on 30 May 2013).

As the deepening of the internal market is ongoing core business of the Commission, we had already conducted public consultations on specific topics which were ultimately incorporated or reflected in the Connected Continent proposal, such as net neutrality and the Open Internet, the "relevant markets" deemed suitable for regulation, and Roaming. For instance, the Commission was happy to receive a large number of responses to its consultation on Net Neutrality, which ran from July to October 2012. We received replies from 135 organizations and public authorities including consumer associations, ISPs and their associations, content providers and their associations, public authorities, transit providers and others, and more than 1000 replies from individual citizens. The (non-confidential) replies are available here.

In addition to specific stakeholders and the broader public, we have a continuous and formalised dialogue with Member States. For instance, the work done in recent years on wireless broadband by the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), which groups Member State representatives dealing with radio spectrum, has informed the impact assessment. The work undertaken by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), which gathers national regulatory authorities, has been instrumental in preparing the proposal for a Connected Continent. For instance, BEREC has been actively looking into the issue of net neutrality (or the 'Open Internet') and provided its input to the Commission in the context of the consultation. We also held a dedicated discussion with BEREC representatives on 24 June 2013. Both these bodies themselves consult the public on their advice to the European Commission.

The relevant inputs to the proposal can also be consulted via the impact assessment (See page 14 & Annex 7. NB: While the majority of the inputs are publicly available, certain contributions have not been published inter alia to protect third parties' privacy or commercially sensitive information, in accordance with specific European Parliament and Council rules).

The Commission also received a number of unsolicited written contributions on the specific issues of the proposal.

Taken together, these have undoubtedly helped us gain a very granular view of the opinions of market participants and of interest groups on all aspects of the proposal under preparation.

I hope this rather comprehensive explanation of how we have sought views on one specific policy issue has helped show how we manage our stakeholder engagement.

If you would like to know more, you can find details of how to join in the debate on our web site.